Shopping the Middle

imagesIt was a Tuesday night and Scott and I had just come from a local restaurant where we had enjoyed a happy hour special.  Just in case you did not get the significance of that statement let me repeat it to be clear.  My husband and I went out for happy hour during the week. It was not for a special occasion, not in-between running from one event to another, not because I had a meeting for a sport, school,volunteer, work, charity or committee of any kind.  We were at Costco to buy a land line phone.  As we are coming up the aisle we see a teacher, coach, parent and friend with his three little ones and his teacher, coach wife walking towards us.  She is pushing the flat bed cart, He is pushing the regular oversized Costco cart with two of his kids in the cart and one in the ‘front seat’.  The three kids are all eating slices of pizza with varying degrees of greasy mess and success.  They greet us with big smiles and “What are you doing here?” We laugh and say buying a phone and you know other unnecessary items.  His eyes get real big and he says “You are shopping the Middle! We avoid the Middle of Costco” He turned and looked at his wife and then laughed as his daughters cheese oozed off her slice of pizza dropping on her brothers lap.  “Someday we will shop the Middle too!”costco-is-the-perfect-example-of-why-the-minimum-wage-should-be-higher-1

I am still laughing at that revered look and comment. I, Kari Johnson am an empty nester and I get to shop the Middle!  We have downgraded our cable package and our internet usage.  We added a land line because we are “saving money” by bundling services so for the first time in many years we have a home phone.  We got rid of the land line to save money now we  got it back to save money.  I have not been grocery shopping in three weeks, if we go out to dinner and bring food home we actually get to eat it.  I put it in the fridge and low and behold the next day it is still there.  We bought a sleep number bed and it is fabulous.  We go to bed at 8:30 and nobody makes fun of us, needs a poster board or asks me to edit a paper at 10:00pm that is due the next day.  My family room has been transformed from an athletic shrine of four stellar athletes trophy’s, awards, uniforms, and varsity letters to a tribute to my love and obsession with Otters. My kitchen counter does not have water bottles, cups, shoe laces, mouth guards, or notes for me to sign from last  week.  I do not trip over the shoes, coats, or backpacks on my way to let the dog out in the night. I have not used the expressions “What do you live in a barn?” “You are gonna be late” or “Seriously??”IMG_8324

In my one month of experiencing life without kids in my home daily I have been questioned multiple times if I am really okay.  You seem to handle this so well, are you really celebrating and enjoying it? You were so involved at the school, in the sports, do you miss it? What do you do with all your time?  Are you bored? Have you been to any games or stopped by the school? These  questions are usually from parents still entrenched in the wonderful craziness of full-time at home mothering.  They ask with hope and a bit of incredulous disbelief that this will ever happen to them.  They are right.  I gave 100% to my kids, their school, sports, events, teachers and social life.  I was the first one to get there and the last to leave.  I screamed loud, passionately and was probably a bit over the top.  I honestly do not know how to do things any other way.  I juggled, organized, cooked for an army, took on way more than I should have, and loved every minute of it, well, not every minute. I was THAT mom so I understand the questions.

My answer is an unconditional, resounding, YES! I am loving it.  I do not miss the chaos and the crazy schedule.  I have not been back to a game, or even visited the school.  This is not because I do not care or don’t want to see people. I do like football but gosh sitting at home with a glass of wine and cuddling up with a book while my other friends are freezing, bundled, and screaming for the first down is pretty great. I absolutely loved being a part of it, I would do it again in a heart beat. Yet for me, the gift of life is in its many stages, and being able to embrace each stage and give myself 100% to the moment I am now living is truly a blessing.

That being said, I miss my kids.  I send Jessie a card every week.  I text and talk to them when they have time and sometimes when they don’t.  We just got back from a family weekend in Montana with Jessie, I have visited Isaac and Christian on separate weekends and will hopefully see John this Sunday when he has his first regatta with the novice crew team of Seattle University. IMG_8323 I wake up every day and on my way down my stairs I say good morning and touch each of my kids portraits and do the same in reverse when I go to bed at night. When I say my prayers at night I thank God for the honor of being their mom, that they survived being a Johnson kid and for the amazing husband and partner I get to enjoy these stages with.  It is different, but I really like shopping the Middle.


Managing Mondays; the gift closet
August 15, 2011, 6:30 am
Filed under: back to school, bargain shopping, Parenting | Tags: , ,


I am in Costco, with my daughter Jessie and we are on a hunt. Not for 40 rolls of toilet paper, not for the largest block of cheese, and not for a 25 lb. bag of flour, these I buy on a regular basis, and are not hunt worthy. We are hunting for the little known, Costco sale items. I was given some insider information about this bargain and we were going to hunt and find out just what this meant. I am a huge bargain hunter, I love to save money, I get a natural high when I use coupons and save more than I spend. This new tip had me very excited.

The truth is Costco does have coupons for some items and I enjoy using them, I can usually tell how good the coupon is by the item limit. The less they let you buy, the better the deal. Costco does not have “sale items” and there are no signs letting you know,that it is indeed, on sale. When they are trying to get rid of an item, only have a few left, need more space on the floor, or whatever, they lower the price and end the price with a .97. For example on our hunt today we found a 2 piece insulated beverage tub for $4.97, I know that when they first came into the store they were $19.99. That is a good deal, one I would have probably not noticed had I not been hunting for items ending in .97.

This then brings up the question, what will you do with this insulated beverage container? I am so glad you asked, because my Managing Mondays this week is about gift closets. One of the ways I save my family money is by having a gift closet. When I find a really good deal on an item that I think would be a great gift, I buy it. I store it in a closet and when an occasion for a gift arises, I usually have something that will work, without having to leave the house, or break the budget.

I always check the clearance items, I have found that Fred Meyer, Kohl’s, and Target are the best places to get rock bottom prices on nice quality items. I love to give presents, I am a giver by nature and really like surprising friends and family with unexpected treats. I always try to keep a baby gift, a wedding gift, a housewarming gift and age appropriate birthday gifts. I have so much fun hunting and feel good about giving a nice present, knowing I can still feed my family.

Toys are best bought after a holiday like Christmas or Easter. Summer items are at their best deals right now, beach towels, water toys, outdoor dishes etc. are all really cheap. Find a good place in your house or garage to store these items. It should be a place that you see fairly often so it will remind you what you have, and also remind you to keep a good stock. I have two shelves in a closet that also holds my lightbulbs, extra kleenex and other similar things. This is not the place to store presents you buy for your kids as they will discover it faster than you can say “Sale”.

So have fun hunting, if it’s a really good deal buy two or three, and let me know if you find out any insider secrets so I can save even more!